Environmentally Speaking

Winter Tips for Road Salt Use and Ways to Help Water Quality

Check out the following tips from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and Let's Keep It Blue on water quality!

When snow and ice melts, the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. It takes only one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once in the water, there is no way to remove the chloride, and at high concentrations, chloride can harm fish and plant life. Less is more when it comes to applying road salt. The use of sand can help provide traction with ice and snow conditions with less harmful effects.

Here are four tips for keeping salt use down:

1) Remove the snow first. The more snow and ice you remove with a shovel, snow blower or plow, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be. Then, break up ice manually if possible and decide if application of a de-icer or sand is even necessary to maintain traction.

2) Slow down. Drive for winter conditions please be courteous to slow-moving plows and salt/sand trucks. The slower they drive, the more salt/sand will stay on the road where it's needed. Having snow or all-season tires on your vehicle can help provide better handling conditions with winter weather.

3) Use sparingly. More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet (an average parking space is about 150 square feet). One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. And be patient: salt takes time to work. Applying more will lead to unnecessary contamination. Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying salt or sand.

4) Wait for warm weather. Most salts stop doing their job when the temperature is below 15 degrees. Instead, use sand for traction in frigid conditions. Sweep up extra salt. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement, it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away. The excess amount can be swept up and reused for the next snow or disposed of in the trash.

This information was provided by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. There were two Southwest Michigan Water Quality Surveys that took place in the region in 2019 and 2021. Those survey results stated that over 99% of the responds indicated that protecting the local streams, rivers and lakes from pollution and improving water quality was important to them.

For more water quality tips visit: www.letskeepitblue.org 

Stormwater Pollution and Illicit Discharge

The City of Niles' Department of Public Works, over the next several years, will be releasing information using this website; informational flyers provided to area schools; press releases through area news media; and other means necessary to educate our citizens on pollution prevention practices related to storm water runoff. Working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the DPW will help facilitate the education of our citizens on how to prevent the illicit discharge of pollutants into the City’s storm sewer system, which ultimately ends up in the St. Joseph or Dowagiac Rivers.

The City of Niles' Department of Public Works provides both a Stormwater Public Education Plan for the Lower St. Joseph River Watershed and an Illicit Discharge Elimination Plan for the Lower St. Joseph River.  These plans are necessary to ensure that the public is being educated on the importance of protecting our waterways and that the public is aware of what measures are being taken to protect our rivers and to ensure we have clean water well into the future.

The following are specific environmental subjects that all residents should be made aware of in regard to preserving the natural resources of our community.  We ask that you review each of the subjects below to familiarize yourself and others of what can be done to preserve our resources and some things that should not be done because of the hazards that such actions would pose.  Please check this page often for additional information that will be added to this series of important environmental messages.

New Video:
  How to Spot and Report Storm Water Pollution

January is National Radon Action Month
Test Your Home and Protect Your Family.


January is National Radon Action Month. This is an opportunity for all Michiganders to take steps towards protecting themselves and their families. One in every four Michigan homes is expected to have radon levels that exceed the recommended federal action level. You cannot see, smell, or taste radon, and there are no short-term side effects. It’s estimated to cause more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States, with more than 600 of those occurring in Michigan. Testing your home is the only way to know if you have a problem.

For help getting a radon test kit, go to www.michigan.gov/radon, call 800-723-6642, email radon@michigan.gov, or just stop by your local hardware store.  Testing is recommended every two years because homes settle, new cracks form in the foundation, and radon levels can change.  Accurate short-term radon testing requires closed house conditions, and the length of the testing period is a minimum of 48 hours.  January is a great time to test!

If test results show radon levels at or above 4 picocuries per liter, a radon mitigation system problem.  This system grabs the radon before it ever enters the home and vents it outside.

During National Radon Action Month, the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality urge homeowners to protect their health by testing for radon.

For more information about radon testing, mitigation, levels across the state, etc., visit www.michigan.gov/radon.     
For  a free packet of information about radon,  e-mail  radon@michigan.gov or call us at 1-800-RADON GAS (1-800-723-6642).